This coming Wednesday, March 28th, the 2018 provincial budget will be delivered in the Ontario legislature. Earlier this year the Peterborough Chamber of Commerce sent a letter to Finance Minister Charles Sousa and Peterborough MPP and Minister for Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs and Minister Responsible for Small Business Jeff Leal highlighting three priority areas for Peterborough business.
Helping businesses transition under Bill 148
This provincial budget cycle is of particular importance to many of our Chamber members as it will be the first budget with the opportunity to implement cost mitigation measures around significant legislative changes to the Employment Standards and Labour Relations Acts. It is anticipated that the impact of these changes will be felt for some time, possibly up to two years. As a result, businesses will require transitional help as was given after the approval to move to a Harmonized Sales Tax (HST).
Public transportation projects that ensure economic competitiveness
For Peterborough one of these projects is upgraded freight and passenger rail. In the past decade, the Ontario government has contributed to engineering studies and we thank them again for those investments. Currently, the provincial government is a partner with the federal government on a freight rail
analysis for the Peterborough-Toronto-Havelock-Blue Mountain line. We encourage timely analysis around this project as freight considerations were part of the afore mentioned engineering study and the current VIA Rail proposal that is before the federal government.
An upgraded rail line through the heart of southern Ontario along with the upcoming completion of the 407 extension to the 35/115 will offer significant economic benefits to the province as a whole and to eastern Ontario in particular.
Encouraging strong and healthy communities by encouraging strong municipalities
The Peterborough Chamber is a proponent of a request to increase the ‘Heads and Beds Levy’. The current rate of $75 has not been adjusted in 30 years and we believe that increasing it to $100 and then attaching any future increases to the Consumer Price Index (CPI) will help municipalities and more closely reflect the cost of providing services.
We thank Minister Leal for his response to a previous request to increase the heads and beds levy and agree that while uploading to the province has resulted in savings to the municipality, more can be done. The heads and beds levy is one that gets at the heart of municipal challenges – cost of infrastructure and providing services to residents. A rate that has not been adjusted in 30 years may not be reflective of the current requirements and is worth re-examining.
Peterborough businesses are looking for a province that is flexible and able to anticipate changes in the marketplace in a way that doesn’t slow down the economic wheel, but rather improves its efficiency and function, so that Ontario reaps the benefits.
The Peterborough Chamber will have post-budget reaction and identify the pieces important to Peterborough. Earlier this week the Lieutenant-Governor delivered a speech from the throne. The speech provided a general overview of the government's policy commitments around the theme of 'care' rather than specific details.
Recap of Throne Speech - Ontario Chamber of Commerce Rapid Policy Update